A helmet is a personal decision. You must consider proper safety labeling, type, fit and comfort when making a choice. We’ll take you through these considerations, and we’ll even list 16 great options of 2017, that you can find online.
1) Triple Eight Certified Helmet | 2) Basecamp Bike Cycling Helmet | 3) Smith Optics Forefront All Mountain Bike Helmet | POC Tectal Bike Helmet | 5) Demon Podium Mountain Bike Helmet | 6) Moon Road and Mountain Bike MTB Helmet | 7) New Cool Mountain Bike Helmets | 8) Giro Chronicle MIPS Bike Helmet | 9) Giro Hex Mountain Bike Helmet | 10) Giro Feature Mountain Bike Helmet | 11) Demon Podium Mountain Bike Helmet | 12) Fox Flux Helmet | 13) Demon Podium Mountain Bike Helmet Black | 14) Premium Quality Airflow Bike Helmet | 15) THE Industries T3 Shield Mountain Bike Helmet | 16) Bell Super 2 Helmet |
Half-Shell Mountain Bike Helmets
Mountain bike helmets are designed for off-road riding of all kinds. Half-shell mountain helmets are very similar to road bike helmets. The main thing that sets a mountain lid apart from a road lid is the inclusion of a visor.
Visors serve to shield the eyes from from sun, mud, and rain. While both road and off-road riders may benefit from this type of eye protection, road helmets typically do not have a visor because it would impede the vision of a cyclist riding in the typical forward position on a road bike. The riding position on a mountain bike tends to be more upright, so visors don’t interfere with the line of sight as much.
Helmet visors, which are also found on full-face helmets, are usually adjustable in angle to allow for more or less eye protection. You can think of a helmet visor like a car sun visor which flips down to shield the eyes when you need it, and then up and out of the way when you don’t.
Helmets designed for mountain biking typically have more coverage, and therefore more protection, than road bike helmets because mountain bikers are more likely to crash as they negotiate uneven terrain. Half-shell helmets are not designed to be worn with Leatt style neck braces. These braces are designed to protect the neck from various injuries only when coupled with a solid full-face helmet. Never wear a neck brace with a half-shell helmet!
Most mountain bikers combine their visored helmets with sunglasses for eye protection, but a growing number of enduro riders are wearing goggles. Goggles provide better protection in dusty or very muddy situations than glasses. Goggles can also be more secure than glasses. We’ve actually found that they improve the security of some half-shell helmets.
The downside to goggles is that they usually aren’t ventilated enough to prevent fogging when you are cranking uphill at low speeds. The Bell Super 2R MIPS and Bell Super 2 MIPS both have a visor which articulates upward enough for goggles to be stored on the front of the helmet while you crank uphill.
We think that half-shell mountain bike helmets are the most versatile bicycle helmets. Since the visor can be removed on most helmets, they can be used for road biking and are perfectly fine for commuting or recreational riding.
Mountain helmets also tend to be less expensive than road or full-face helmets. If you are new to biking and are going to start out with just one helmet, we recommend you check out some of the less expensive mountain bike helmets like the Bell Stoker or Giro Feature.
Full-Face Downhill Mountain Bike Helmets
Full-face bicycle helmets encompass the entire head and have the most coverage of all types of bicycle helmets. They are designed for very aggressive riding where violent crashes are likely. Full-faces have a chin guard which protects your grill from rocks and dirt sandwiches.
This style of helmet, aimed at downhill mountain biking and bmx riding, is the least ventilated type of helmet and can feel a bit suffocating for those who are not used to them. Full-face helmets cover the ears, which adds protection but can make them hard to put on and hard to hear out of.
Full-face bicycle helmets carry the same CPSC helmet certification as half-shell helmets but are not DOT certified for motorcycle use. See our Full-Face Review for our favorite helmets for lift-assisted riding.
This type of helmet is typically worn with goggles. Wearing sunglasses with a full-face is considered a fashion faux-pas by most downhill riders.
Since full-faces have so much more coverage than half-shell helmets, full-faces tend to be the heaviest genre of helmets. Many manufacturers make a polycarbonate and a carbon version of their full-face offering. The carbon version is usually slightly lighter but goes for bookoo dollars when compared to the plastic version.
Rather than a Y shaped yoke connecting the helmet to the chin strap, full-face helmets are secured with a single chin strap that is anchored to the helmet somewhere beneath the ears. Theses straps are typically secured with threaded double D rings rather than plastic buckles, and make the helmet a bit harder to put on between runs.
Modern neck braces such as the Leatt DBX 5.5 can be combined with a full-face helmet to increase neck protection in the case of a bad fall. Neck braces are designed to protect the spinal cord by redirecting forces away from the neck and onto the shoulders or torso. Neck braces can also be worn with DOT full-face motorcycle helmets, but they must never be worn with any type of half shell helmet.